In This Review

Democracy in the Time of Coronavirus
Democracy in the Time of Coronavirus
By Danielle Allen
University of Chicago Press, 2021, 128 pp

In this stirring manifesto, the renowned political theorist Allen argues that the United States’ woeful response to the COVID-19 pandemic must serve as a wake-up call for Americans to rebuild their public health infrastructure and renew their constitutional democracy. For Allen, the crux of the problem is the breakdown of the American social contract, a rupture that left minorities and low-income workers unprotected in the face of the pandemic. She sees this as a “learning moment,” an opportunity to pose constitutional questions about how the United States might better equip itself to cope with global threats. Protecting what the U.S. Constitution calls the “general welfare” is the first task of government, and the laudable recent efforts of other democracies, such as Australia and Germany, help point the way. As Allen sees it, the failures of the United States to protect people from the deadly virus—and from the human suffering and social inequalities that followed—are more than public policy missteps; they reveal a deeper failure to make good on the “responsibilities of governance” that undergird the legitimacy of a constitutional democracy.